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Sudden cardiac arrest

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest, or SCA, occurs when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. As a result, more than 350,000 deaths occur each year. SCA claims one life every two minutes, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer or AIDS.

Timing is critical. Those who experience sudden cardiac arrest must receive life-saving defibrillation within four to six minutes. When SCA occurs, the heartbeat must be restored with an electrical shock immediately.

I remember crossing the finish line, looking at my watch and then I don’t remember much until that evening.

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David Henley and his wife

Sudden cardiac arrest vs. heart attack

It may be difficult to distinguish between sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack, but each condition has separate signs and symptoms.

  • A heart attack is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that interrupts the flow of blood causing an area of the heart muscle to die. Typical signs often include chest pain, discomfort in other areas of the upper body such as one or both arms, the neck, back, jaw or stomach, and shortness of breath.
  • However, the heart’s electrical system is what is affected when sudden cardiac arrest occurs. During SCA, the heart stops beating and no blood is pumped to the rest of the body. There are no symptoms prior to sudden cardiac arrest. Someone affected with this condition will collapse suddenly, have no pulse, won’t be breathing and will lose consciousness.
  • Two-thirds of SCA deaths occur without any prior indications of heart disease, whereas heart attacks often have previous signs and symptoms.

Why choose UF Health Jacksonville?

Cardiac electrophysiologists at the UF Health Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Program work closely with other cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons to assist or guide therapy for heart rhythm disturbances. These specialists at UF Health Jacksonville offer comprehensive treatment and prevention of sudden cardiac arrest. Different types of implantable cardiac defibrillators are available for a variety of patients.

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News and Patient Stories: Sudden cardiac arrest

The race to save a life

David Henley is a dedicated husband, father and software engineer. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for more than 29 years and have two children…

UF Health patient David Henley and wife Karen.
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